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Comparing "Safe Surfing" tools
In this article we're going to take a different look at safe surfing toolbars like WOT and SiteAdvisor. But instead of looking at the toolbar aspect of these two, we're going to take a look at their link scanning aspects. That is the aspect that rates links in the searches you do. We also included results from a stand-alone program known as LinkScanner Lite and Symantec's Safe Web. Since the vast majority of surfers end up on a given site for the first time via search engine search results, we thought we'd test how well WOT, SiteAdvisor, LinkScanner Lite and Symantec's Safe Web website did in our informal test.
We want to point out that this is not, by any means, a test conducted using any kind of scientific standards or any special equipment. We used one computer running Windows Vista Home Premium, with all current Windows Vista updates included. We used both Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 8 browsers with the latest versions of WOT and SiteAdvisor installed. We used Google as our search engine. In other words, we used a typical computer, not a special one set up by a testing labs. The results we got should be typical of the results most home users would get with the same software installed. We have screen shots of all the tests we conducted, but due to space considerations, didn't include them here. We will keep them on file, in case anyone wants to see them.
WOT and SiteAdvisor are browser add-ons. LinkScanner is a separate program - not a browser add-on.- which scans links in search engine results pages. We also included in this comparison Norton Safe Web which is not a software application but a Web site where users can enter a URL and find out whether Norton considers it safe.
We tested eight Web sites. These are sites which we feel are scams or which offer free downloads which we consider to be adware, spyware or malware. One site we included here doesn't fall into those categories, and that is Free Downloads Center. Free Downloads Center is included because it is one of the first sites which appears in Google search results when the search term "free downloads" is used. We felt this would be used search term that many people would use if they were looking for free downloads.
We tested these sites on March 24 and March 25, 2009 and here are the results:
Sites labeled "Caution" show as yellow warnings in LinkScanner, SiteAdvisor, and on Norton's Safe Web site. Site's labeled dangerous show up in red in LinkScanner, SiteAdvisor, WOT, and on the Norton Safe Web site.
You can make your own judgments about the sites above. We would suggest you avoid all of them - as WOT recommends.
When tools to make your surfing safer cannot agree on what constitutes a good and bad Web site, it's easy to see why there is so much confusion on the Web. And you can be sure also that sites will exploit these ratings to their own benefit.
The above chart shows you why we recommend WOT as our number one safe surfing browser add-on - and now we can recommend it as our number one link checker for your everyday searches too.
In our tests only WOT made consistently accurate calls on sites which we feel contain content from which users should be protected.
Screen captures of all tests we conducted are on file.
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